Set in Kent’s picturesque countryside, Wildernesse House is located on Wildernesse Avenue and is part of the 24-acre historic estate, renowned for its magnificent period houses and ancient woodland. Purcell was appointed architect for the restoration and conversion of Wildernesse House as well heritage consultant for the entire site, on which the practice has worked since feasibility stage in 2013. This involved transforming the Grade II-Listed Georgian building into 23 high-end, luxury apartments. Spa facilities, communal spaces and wellness areas were created within the stately home, where residents will enjoy a level of service reflecting that of a traditional, country estate.
The accommodation in the historic house comprises 17 one- and two-bedroom apartments, 2 duplexes and 4 one- and two-bedroom ‘legacy’ apartments. The grand main hall has been restored to emphasise the building’s high ceilings, glass dome roof and dramatic central staircase, and to provide a luxurious shared space for residents featuring a lounge and library. The house has been reconfigured to incorporate a luxurious spa comprising a swimming pool, therapy rooms – including steam and salt rooms – and a gym complete with the latest equipment.
Within the main house, the very highest standard of luxury interiors was provided while maintaining and showcasing the building’s stunning original spaces and features including ornate decorative plasterwork, fireplaces, joinery and ironmongery. Wildernesse House now offers new homes which are modern, spacious and open-plan. The residences are designed to maximise natural light — an important element of wellness, which is at the heart of every development and a unique offering to PegasusLife properties. The development also includes the addition of contemporary, accessible elements such as en-suite bathrooms and walk-in wardrobes.
While the house has been restored to its former glory, careful consideration has been given to the reconstruction work. The intention was to celebrate the building’s age and heritage, rather than attempting to recreate it as new.
At ground floor level, the existing timber parquet floor finishes within the entrance hall, main stair and corridors have been retained and carefully refurbished. Similarly, the mosaic tiled flooring within an entrance lobby has been retained, repaired and refurbished.
Throughout the restoration process, original walls and ceilings were stripped of any superfluous recently-added fixtures and fittings and re-tuned back to their original state and appropriately decorated. Existing features – such as timber panelling, dado rails, columns and decorative wall pilasters – have been retained and appropriate conservation repair and decorative schemes reintroduced. At ground- and first-floor levels, particularly around the main stair atrium, the original doors and decorative frames, along with their associated elaborate ironmongery, have been retained and reused as individual front doors or reincorporated as doors within the apartments themselves.
Numerous original ornate fireplaces and surrounds have been retained, particularly within the principal rooms in the 18th-century section of the house. These have been refurbished to working order wherever possible.
Wildernesse House has had many uses over time, causing a complex range of issues for Purcell to resolve. These uses included its most recent function as a headquarters and school for the Royal London Society for Blind People, during which period the building was called Dorton House. The building had to be adapted considerably to house the school leading to a significant number of original features being damaged.
Purcell worked closely with PegasusLife, the local conservation officer, planners and building control to develop a design that repaired these features where possible, without disguising the modern interventions, which – while sensitive to their context – are clearly legible as new additions and which meet regulatory and planning requirements.
We took great care to subdivide the building into apartments with the minimum possible intervention. The project is a testament to Purcell's ability to sympathetically adapt and transform a historic building for compatible modern use, ensuring its regeneration and survival for the future. Wildernesse House is now all set for the next chapter in its fascinating history.